EHR Usability 101
What is Usability? Usability is the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which specific users can achieve a specific set of tasks in a particular environment [Schoeffel R. The concept of product usability. ISO Bulletin. 2003;34:6‐7.].
Efficiency is generally the speed with which users can complete their tasks. Which tasks and clinic processes must be most efficient for success? Can you establish targets for acceptable completion times of these tasks? For example, is it reasonable in a practice for clinicians to take ten minutes to document a complex new patient visit or 30 minutes turnaround time for a telephone refill request?
Effectiveness is the accuracy and completeness with which users can complete tasks. This includes how easy it is for the system to cause users to make errors. User errors can lead to inaccurate or incomplete patient records, can alter clinical decision-making, and can compromise patient safety.
In essence, a system with good usability is easy to use and effective. It is intuitive, forgiving of mistakes and allows one to perform necessary tasks quickly, efficiently and with a minimum of mental effort. Tasks which can be performed by the software (such as data retrieval, organization, summary, cross‐checking, calculating, etc.) are done in the background, improving accuracy and freeing up the user’s cognitive resources for other tasks.
EHR Usability Principles
The following principles of software usability can be applied directly to the development and evaluation of EHR systems:
- Forgiveness and Feedback
- Effective Use of Language
- Efficient Interactions
- Effective Information Presentation
- Preservation of Context
- Minimize Cognitive Load
While usability principles apply to all software, this set has been assessed and put forth as being those of key concern for electronic medical records.